American Airlines isn’t “interested in caring for its employees” and its only concern is maximizing the number of hours flight attendants work, the airline’s official flight attendant union has blasted in a new dispute over working hours.
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) claims management at the Dallas Fort Worth-based airline is “stuffing as much time” into flight attendant rosters as possible with “zero consideration” for the well-being of crew members.
The problem arises from how AA creates flight attendant ‘trip sequences’, with the union claiming the airline is building such “poorly constructed” sequences that they can’t withstand frequent weather problems or air traffic control delays.
A trip sequence is a series of flights a flight attendant is rostered to work over a set number of days. If a flight attendant is significantly delayed on one flight, then the delay will roll onto the next flight they are assigned to work and this can have serious ripple effects throughout the day.
Rather than addressing the “root problems”, the union claims AA is simply putting even more flight attendants on reserve duty so that they can be called from standby to fill in the gaps in broken trip sequences.
“The sheer number of Reserve Flight Attendants used to complete these fragile sequences is shocking,” the union complained in a recent memo, saying the airline was “blatantly ignoring” its suggestions to make the operation more resilient.
Because of AA’s seniority-based system, trip sequences are assigned to more senior ‘line holders’, while junior flight attendants are placed on reserve. Junior flight attendants are finding themselves stuck with constant reserve duties, while line holders are being forced to work more hours.
“Our concerns and logical arguments fall on deaf ears, especially with the allocations department,” the union told flight attendants in a recent memo.
“Blatantly ignoring APFA’s input every month, the allocations department continues to build sequences that cannot withstand weather and air traffic delays”.
American Airlines says, however, that its on-time arrival rate and flight completion factor for the second quarter of 2022 were actually better than the same period in 2019. The airline has also claims it is managing to run “a reliable operation in very challenging conditions”.
The aviation industry has blamed severe weather and air traffic controls for many of its woes this summer but staffing shortages have also been a contributing factor, especially when airlines have struggled to quickly recover their operation after a period of disruption.
American Airlines has been contacted for comment.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.